UN urges aid to avert cholera-induced famine in Yemen

July 11, 2017

International donors must step up to prevent a cholera epidemic in war-torn Yemen from producing full-blown famine among hundreds of thousands of people, a UN official said Tuesday.

More than 313,000 suspected cases and 1,732 deaths are attributable to the outbreak since it erupted in April, said Jamie McGoldrick, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Yemen.

Hard-pressed UN agencies are doing their best to stem the epidemic by diverting resources from programmes, he told reporters in Geneva.

"We are very short of funding overall. We are robbing Peter to pay Paul," he said by telephone, warning of a vicious cycle as people weakened by a lack of food become easier prey to .

The collapse of Yemen's infrastructure after more than two years of war between the Saudi-backed government and Shiite rebels who control the capital Sanaa has made for a "perfect storm for cholera", according to the World Health Organization.

Cholera is a highly spread through contaminated food or water.

Although the disease is easily treatable, doing so in Yemen has proved particularly difficult. The war has left less than half of the country's medical facilities in working order.

McGoldrick conceded that the UN had underestimated the virulence of cholera's spread in Yemen, and confirmed that a programme of vaccination was being discontinued as the disease had outpaced it already.

He noted that much of the $1.1 billion (966,000 euros) in aid pledged by donor governments in April to deal with Yemen's overall humanitarian needs has yet to be disbursed.

Donors who have yet to translate pledges into action "should put cash on the table" now, McGoldrick said.

The UN itself has opened up funds from an emergency budget but there remains a shortfall of just over $100 million to deal with immediate needs, the official said.

He also appealed for greater flexibility in how aid is spent, for instance to allow the UN to foot the salaries of Yemeni health workers, many of whom have not been paid for months.

"We've been asked in some cases to replace the health system. We cannot. We do not have the resources or the mandate," the UN official said.

"And this epidemic is spreading further and faster than anything we've seen before.

"Cholera is today's crisis. Famine is tomorrow's crisis," he said, estimating that some 500,000 Yemenis could face famine in the near future unless help is forthcoming.

About 17 million people—two-thirds of Yemen's population—are uncertain of where their next meal will come from, according to the World Food Programme.

Explore further: Yemen cholera outbreak tops 300,000 suspected cases: ICRC

Related Stories

Yemen cholera outbreak tops 300,000 suspected cases: ICRC

July 10, 2017
A cholera outbreak in Yemen has now surpassed 300,000 suspected cases, the Red Cross said Monday as the war-torn country reels from disease as well as the threat of famine.

Yemen famine risk rising as cholera diverts resources: UN

July 6, 2017
Aid groups have pulled resources from the fight against malnutrition to battle cholera in Yemen, raising the risk of famine as they struggle to find funds, a UN official said Thursday.

Yemen cholera toll nears 1,000 as 'humanity loses out to politics'

June 8, 2017
The death toll from a cholera outbreak is approaching 1,000 in Yemen, a war-devastated and impoverished country where "humanity is losing out to politics", a senior UN official said Thursday.

Yemen cholera cases could jump to 300,000 by September: UN

June 23, 2017
A cholera outbreak in war-ravaged Yemen will probably have infected more than 300,000 people by September, up sharply from the current tally of nearly 193,000 cases, the United Nations said Friday.

Cholera kills 315 in Yemen in less than month: WHO

May 22, 2017
Cholera has killed 315 people in Yemen in under a month, the World Health Organization has said, as another aid organisation warned Monday the outbreak could become a "full-blown epidemic".

Yemen cholera outbreak shows signs of slowing: UN

June 27, 2017
A cholera outbreak in Yemen, which has claimed 1,400 lives in two months, shows tentative signs of slowing as fatality rates drop by half, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Childhood abuse linked to greater risk of endometriosis, study finds

July 17, 2018
Endometriosis, a painful condition that affects one in 10 reproductive-age women in the U.S., has been linked to childhood physical and sexual abuse, according to findings published today in the journal Human Reproduction.

Why men might recover from flu faster than women

July 17, 2018
Men may recover more quickly from influenza infections because they produce more of a key lung-healing protein, a study from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests.

Broadly acting antibodies found in plasma of Ebola survivors

July 17, 2018
Recent Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreaks, including the 2013-2016 epidemic that ravaged West Africa and the 2018 outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, highlight the need for licensed treatments for this often-deadly ...

Hidden blood in feces may signal deadly conditions

July 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Even if it's not visible to the naked eye, blood in the stool can be serious—a sign of a potentially fatal disease other than colon cancer, new research suggests.

Scientists a step closer to predicting epidemics

July 13, 2018
Ecologists at the University of Georgia have taken an important step in their efforts to develop an early warning system for infectious disease outbreaks.

Researchers identify target for novel malaria vaccine

July 13, 2018
A Yale-led team of researchers have created a vaccine that protects against malaria infection in mouse models, paving the way for the development of a human vaccine that works by targeting the specific protein that parasites ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.